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WebDrive – Make FTP connections appear as virtual drives.

If you do anything on the web, particularly things like web
development or other types of website maintenance, you’re probably
aware of “FTP” or File Transfer Protocol. The FTP protocol, and its
sibling SFTP (Secure FTP), are two of the quiet workhorses of pushing
bits around the internet.

The current traditional approach to dealing with file transfers via
FTP is to use a graphical utility such as FileZilla, CuteFTP, WinSCP or
others, and then drag-and-drop files to and from the remote site. The
previous approach was to use the “ftp” program to perform the same
operations at the command line.

I’ve become addicted to WebDrive which allows you to do both and much, much
more, by simply making a FTP connection appear as a virtual disk drive
on your machine.

That’s an incredibly simple approach that enables a world of
flexibility.

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As I sit here, the entire hard disk of the server that hosts Ask Leo!
and a few of my other sites is accessible on my Windows machine as
drive “Z:”.

“That’s an incredibly simple approach that
enables a world of flexibility.”

So the obvious result is that copying a file to and from my server
is exactly like copying a file to any other location on my network. I
can use the command line, I can use Windows Explorer, in fact I can use
whatever approach to copying files around that I like. I can even fire
up my text editor and edit a file directly on the remote server.
There’s no “upload” or “download”, there’s just “copy this file over
there” and the right thing happens.

I happen to use SFTP using public key authentication, which is fully
supported by WebDrive. But regular FTP as well as WebDAV are supported.
In fact, in checking the site in preparation for this recommendation, I
find that WebDrive now also supports the Amazon S3 service as well.

Connect and forget; once your remote service appears as a drive on
your system, you don’t need to remember different approaches to moving
things around, you just treat it like any other drive on your system –
albeit slower since it’s across your internet connection.

In my case, that also enables automation. I have batch files and
scripts that run periodically to perform backups and other operations which are
all easily enabled by simply accessing the remote site connected as a
virtual drive.

WebDrive
is a utility that I rarely think of, and yet something I rely on almost
every day. It’s not free, but in my opinion, worth its modest cost.

I recommend it.

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9 comments on “WebDrive – Make FTP connections appear as virtual drives.”

  1. Neat idea, but I hate tying things to drive letters (bad enough networked drives are that dependent).

    I believe WebDrive will let you define \\machine\share syntax you can use as well, though I’ve not played with that.

    – Leo
    22-Sep-2008
    Reply
  2. I also use a tool called PowerDesk Pro. It does the same and also allows you to split the screen in two either vertically or horizontally. You can have one drive in one panel, and another in the other panel. Like you Leo, I use it every day and the only time I appreciate it is when I go back to Windows Explorer.

    Reply
  3. No need to use any additional software – you can access FTP sites directly via Windows Explorer – just open ‘My Computer’ and type in the URL of the FTP site. Once you’ve logged in, add the site to ‘Favourites’ and you can access it with one click.

    Reply
  4. I have been using Powerdisk for about five years. It is great. The split screen is invaluable and the ftp feature makes transferring files seamless. I use Dreamweaver as an ftp transfer option and the only advantage it has is that in Powerdisk you have to select the folder whereas Dreamweaver puts it in the mirror folder structure on a website. Powerdesk is one of my best purchases and I pay to update whenever they have a new release. That alone says something.

    Reply
  5. Since this uses ftp I imagine files cannot be worked on directly. Is there an option that allows remote access to files with this kind of simplicity?

    Reply
  6. “Connect and forget” – AYOR!

    Leaving a connection to your web host permanently open makes it horribly easy for (suitably-designed) malware, that’s made it onto your PC, to spread to your web site.

    Many of the phishing e. mails, I receive, incorporate a link to a page in some obscure folder of a web site that appears otherwise unrelated to the scam.

    Reply

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